How to Communicate with your Healthcare Team


LIVESTRONG will be posting regular videos blogs to address cancer related questions asked by our online communities. We will reference our LIVESTRONG Guidebook and in the blogs and encourage you to follow along in these resources for additional tips and advice. Please make sure to post your questions in the comments below, call us 1-855-220-7777 or email us through: our online form. We are here to help you navigate the cancer healthcare system.

Today’s blog is intended to offer tips on how to work together with your healthcare team. Your team can consist of your oncologists, radiologist, surgeon, general practitioner, nurses, social workers and anyone else in charge of providing care to you during and after treatment. If you have a LIVESTRONG Guidebook please reference pages 53 – 57 and/or go online at for detailed information.

Step 1: Make sure you find a team with which you feel comfortable

  • This is very critical, you wouldn’t take on a business partner or romantic partner without being comfortable, why would you put your health in the hands of someone with which you aren’t comfortable
  • They should communicate in ways that you prefer
  • It should just ‘feel’ right, if it doesn’t, ask your insurer about other medical teams that you can access

Step 2: Make sure you understand your healthcare providers’ policies and procedures and know what to do if:

  • You can’t reach your doctor
  • You are waiting for test results
  • You have questions about medications or side effects
  • You need to share protected medical information with another party

Step 3: Prepare for your Appointments

  • Use a journal to keep track of your daily experiences
  • Write down questions that come up between appointments
  • Keep track of new symptoms you experience
  • Keep track of what you have tried to relieve the pain and how it worked
  • You may have several different healthcare appointments
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your medications and bring it with you to all of your appointments

Step 4: Use Effective Communication with your Healthcare Team

  • Always bring up concerns that you have
  • Don’t assume that uncomfortable symptoms are normal and unavoidable, your doctor can’t do anything about symptoms he/she doesn’t know you’re experiencing
  • Call your doctor right away if you experience pain or fever!
  • Use words to describe pain, such as burning, aching, or sharp.
  • Bring a note-taker with you to appointments
  • You can also ask your healthcare team (nurse, social worker, etc) to write these down for you
  • Many doctors now allow their patients to tape record their discussions, make sure you ask, though

Step 5: Contact LIVESTRONG

  • Call us at 1-855-220-7777 or go online to request information about our services, get connected to local resources and to speak with a professional cancer navigator.

What other suggestions can you offer? Which of these tips have you used?


  1. Mike Croll says:

    This is one of the best, if not the best, e-mailsl you have sent!!!

    Mike Croll

    Colin cancer surviver since 1998.

  2. Matt Ellefson says:

    Very well done Athon. As a soon-to-be two time advanced lung cancer survivor, I would like to add a few comments based on my experiences.

    1) Understand your medical condition. Ask your medical team for a clear and concise description of your specific medical condition and where you can find credible information about your specific condition (i.e. M.D. Anderson website, National Cancer Institute, etc.)

    2) Understand your treatment options. Ask your medical team why they are recommending your specific treatment option over other options. Also understand how the effectiveness of this treatment option is measured and when it will be measured by them.

    3) Ask your medical team if there is a survivor you can talk to that has sucessfully completed the same treatment plan they are recommending you to begin. Ask if they have a survivor network you can join and become involved in where survivors help survivors. (i.e. Imerman Angels)

    Thanks for doing all the great work you do Athan!

    don’t just live…..LIVESTRONG!

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